EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Paul Moore and the rest of the Holy Spirit High School boys basketball team waited six days and 16 minutes to atone for last Saturday's loss to Rancocas Valley.
Moore scored all 21 of his points in the second half of the 32-minute game as Spirit beat Egg Harbor Township 63-50 Friday night in a matchup of Cape-Atlantic League American Division contenders. Spirit (6-2) is ranked No. 9 in The Press Elite 11, while EHT (7-4) is No. 11.
"I was anxious to play coming off the loss," Moore, a Pleasantville resident, said.
Moore, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, missed his first six shots. He did not score until he sank a 3-pointer from the deep right wing with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
Moore sank another 3-pointer from even deeper on the right wing with 2:34 left in the third. The back-to-back 3-pointers turned a five-point EHT lead into a one-point Spirit advantage. The Spartans never trailed again.
"It was a good feeling," Moore said of that first 3-pointer. "It's all about confidence. You want to win. You want to get yourself going. You let it fly without thinking. You're just playing the game."
The game was Spirit's first since a 49-45 loss at home to Rancocas Valley last week. Moore, who averages 18.4 points, scored 10 in that game.
"It was a long week to stew on that defeat," Spirit coach Jamie Gillespie said. "But the kids responded. We had a tremendous three days of practice following (the loss). We turned the page. This was a huge (division) game for us."
Still, Spirit started slowly against EHT. The Spartans struggled against EHT's 1-3-1 zone defense, committing 24 turnovers.
"We didn't attack the 1-3-1 as well as we would have liked," Gillespie said. "It was our inability to move the ball side-to-side and create (scoring) lanes. But it's not very often that you see a 1-3-1 for an entire game. It's something that's unconventional."
Eagles guard Trey Jones sparked EHT's defense with five steals. Jones (19 points) converted some of those steals into easy baskets. His steal and layup gave EHT a five-point lead with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
Moore then changed the game's momentum with his consecutive 3-pointers. After missing his first six shots, Moore sank five of his next seven attempts.
"I knew I had to take over a little more in the second half," Moore said. "I knew I had to get my teammates going and then step up as the player I want to be and need to be."
Spirit forwards Junior Saintel (17 points, 11 rebounds) and freshman Leon Daniels (12 points) complemented Moore with baskets in the lane during the fourth quarter. Saintel wowed the crowd with a two-handed breakaway dunk that put Spirit up nine with 2:38 left.
While Moore found his offensive game, EHT struggled to score. The Eagles made just one basket in the first 4:35 of the final quarter.
"In the fourth quarter, we just didn't execute," Eagles coach George McNally said. "Whether it was a pass not being made or people not getting to the right spot. That's something we're going to have to get better at if we're going to beat the better teams."
The win began an important stretch for Spirit. The Spartans host Middle Township (7-2) at 2 p.m. today. Middle is ranked No. 4 in the Elite 11.
Spirit then plays at undefeated Atlantic City (9-0) on Tuesday. Atlantic City is No. 1 in the Elite 11. Games against Hammonton (8-3) on Thursday and St. Augustine Prep (7-1) next Saturday (Jan. 19) also loom.
It would have been even tough for the Spartans to head into such anticipated contests on a two-game losing streak.
"At this point, we're literally taking it one game at a time," Gillespie said. "We didn't talk much about Middle Township prior to (Friday). We'll turn around (today), try to come out with some energy and keep it rolling."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Holy Spirit 11 11 15 26-63
Egg Harbor Township 6 16 12 16-50
HS-Moore 6 5-7 21, Saintel 7 3-5 17, Middi 2 2-3 6, Middleton 2 0-0 5, Daniels 5 1-3 12, Sommers 0 2-2 2. Totals-22 13-20 63.
EHT-Harley 4 5-10 14, Allen 2 2-2 6, Jones 9 1-3 19, Steele 2 0-0 4, Caban 1 0-0 2, McMahen 0 5-6 5. Totals-18 13-21 50.
3-pointers-HS. Moore (4)Middleton, Daniels; EHT. Harley.
Records-Spirit 6-2; EHT 7-4.